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NCAA Play-in Games Need to Go

Like the rest of you, I love March Madness. I love the excitement of the last-second wins. I can’t look away from the raw emotion of a gut-wrenching loss. I love following my bracket, even though it’s covered in red ink by round two.

But I’m always angry at this time of the year. Vehemently angry.  I’m angry at the selection committee, and I’m angry at the NCAA.

Sam Rowley (Photo, Bill Ziskin)

UAlbany won the America East title by defeating Stony Brook on Saturday. They won six of their last seven games. They earned an automatic bid for the NCAA tournament.

But they didn’t really.

Rather than being given a spot in the field, UAlbany was given a play-in game against fellow 16-seed, Mount St. Mary’s.

The Great Danes will play in Dayton on Tuesday for the right to play Florida.

Cal-Poly and Texas Southern will also have a play-in game for the right to meet Wichita State.

If you WIN your conference tournament, you are supposed to be IN the NCAA tournament. Not off to the side as an afterthought. The loser is all but forgotten. The loser of the play-in games don’t get to be in the “One Shining Moment” montage.

Heck, they don’t even get to be on most brackets. On most brackets, Florida and Wichita State’s opponents just read “Round One Winner.”

You’re in the tournament, but not really.

So what if you get blown out by a top seed? That’s the right you’ve earned. And you’ve earned the opportunity to give your players a chance to play on the big stage – and to give your university exposure.

But, like all things in athletics – especially the NCAA — it’s about money.

Rather than just allow all four play-in 16-seeds (and the two other 16s not forced to play-in) in to the heart of the tournament, the NCAA forces two small conference teams out early so it can bring in two more major conference teams that will sell more tickets, travel better, and sell more merchandise.

And those teams probably don’t deserve it.

Twelfth-seeded N.C. State (21-12), and 11th-seeded Nebraska (19-12), Iowa (20-12), and Tennessee (21-12) are all questionable selections.

And at least two of them should be out. So that UAlbany and the others can be all in.

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